You may have heard this term “guitar setup” being mentioned by fellow guitarists, but what does it actually mean? Simply put, a guitar setup is like a tune-up for your guitar that makes it play and sound its absolute best. It’s a bit like taking your bike to a mechanic to make sure it rides smoothly.
The next question you have to ask is when and why your guitar needs a setup. Here are some general guidelines to help you determine when it’s a good time to have your guitar set up.
New Guitar Purchase
If you’ve recently bought a new guitar, it’s a good idea to have it set up after a few months of playing. New guitars may settle and experience some changes in neck relief and action during the break-in period. It would also be very helpful if the store you bought your guitar from is able to do a setup upon purchase. Sound Alchemy offers a free one time setup when you purchase a guitar from us. We believe good playability is important, especially for beginner guitarists just starting on their musical journey.
Change in String Gauge
Whenever you switch to a different gauge of strings (e.g., from light to heavy or vice versa), a setup is usually necessary to ensure that the guitar can handle the new string tension and maintain proper intonation.
If you notice significant fret wear or divots in the frets, it may be time for a fret dressing or a partial refret. Fret wear can lead to buzzing and intonation issues. You can read more about refret here.
Buzzing or Intonation Problems
If your guitar develops buzzing noises or intonation problems (i.e., notes not playing in tune across the fretboard), it’s a clear sign that a setup is needed to diagnose and rectify these issues.
Playability Issues When your guitar becomes less comfortable to play or you find it requires more effort than usual to fret notes, it’s a good time for a setup. This includes addressing neck bowing (backbow or forward bow) or action that’s too high or too low. In general you will feel that the guitar does not feel comfortable in your hands, and that would be an indication that a setup might be in order.
Some players schedule a setup as part of their routine guitar maintenance. Depending on how often you play and your specific preferences, this could be twice or more a year. We usually recommend a setup as part of your regular maintenance to maintain good continued playability of your instrument, especially if you use that particular guitar regularly.
If you are experiencing any of these issues, don’t hesitate to email us with your concerns and we will be happy to assist you!